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How Significant Was the Work of Reforming Leaders in Changing the Nature of Russian Government and Society in the Period from 1856 to 1964?

  • Date Submitted: 01/16/2014 02:19 AM
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How significant was the work of reforming leaders in changing the nature of Russian government and society in the period from 1856 to 1964?

It is debatable whether or not the work of some reforming leaders changed the nature of Russia, as rulers such as Nicholas II had done little to reform, and only tried in an attempt to strengthen his own autocratic rule, whereas rulers such as Lenin completely changed the structure of Russian government and society, leaving significant impacts still recognised today in modern Russia.
Looking at the debate from a structuralist view point, it is plain to see that other factors, such as war, famine and peasant revolution played a heavy part in changing the nature of Russian society and government, as peasants grew more tiresome and the ‘Intelligencia's’[1] western ideals began to influence peasants more than the ‘slavophiles’[2] once had.
In my personal opinion, Alexander II became the catalyst for reforms as he made the biggest social and government changes since the reign of Peter the Great, though it can be argued that the reforms are more symbolic than practical.

Alexander II's 'great reforms' stand out among the most significant events in the nineteenth century of Russian History, earning him the title of ‘The Great Reformer’[3] although Alexander II’s reign is described to be ‘marked with contrasts’[4]
Crowned in the midst of a devastating military conflict, the reforms, I believe, are a direct response to the Crimean War defeat, which is argued by structuralist historians such as E. H. Carr to be the reason for the reforms, as without the war defeat the need for change would not of been clearly evidenced, and were intended to improve the efficiency of the army and the economy. He made reforms to areas such as the emancipation of the serfs, the army, censorship and the press, law and order, education and local government. The two most significant reforms made, in my opinion, were the emancipation of the serfs and...

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